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1Ls: How to Fix What Went Wrong During Your First Semester

For many law students, particularly (but not just) 1Ls, finally seeing your grades can be a jarring experience. Being primarily graded based upon a final exam alone is a new experience for most law students (if you have midterms, consider yourself lucky).

Due to the law school grading system, if you didn't do as well as you expected, it can be difficult to determine what actually went wrong. Usually, it's one of the big four problems:

  • Too conclusory
  • Too little time
  • Not answering the question
  • Focusing on the wrong/too few issues

Often, even if you picked up your exams after the fact, your professor's written feedback will be near illegible, or coded in a way only they can understand. If you're struggling to figure out what exactly went wrong, below you can read a few tips on how to do just that.

1. Review Your Exams

Look at your graded final exams and try to decipher what the professor found lacking. Often, there will be model answers that you can compare to your own. Don't be surprised if the model answer is written with poor grammar, or in a cursory outline fashion. Depending on the class, the exam, and the teacher, eloquence usually matters much less than just being right.

Did you fail to spot all the issues? Was your analysis off? If you truly understand what you did wrong, you can skip ahead to number three below. But, if not, move on to number two.

2. Talk to Your Professors

If you don't understand what you did wrong, go talk to your professor with your exam in hand. Don't storm into their office or do anything dramatic. You can either show up to their office hours, or send a polite email asking to meet with them one on one to discuss your exam so that you can do better in the future. Read and re-read the email before you send it to them to ensure you don't sound like you're trying to ask for a better grade. If your professors are unwilling to help, your school likely has some form of help available that you can, and should, seek out.

3. Review Your Studying Methods

If you just ran out of time and couldn't finish, you need to practice your test taking skills to get faster before the next round of finals. If your analysis was off, you need to spend more time practicing your analysis. If you missed issues, you need to practice issue spotting. Basically, you need to find out where your weaknesses are, and you have to devote more time and effort to overcoming that weakness, and practice, practice, practice.

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